1. Park Lazienkowski was formerly the hunting grounds of Ujazdow castle but once acquired by King Stanislaw Poniatowski in the 18th century, it was transformed into a lovely park-palace complex. The park can be reached easily on foot from the city centre in about 20 minutes. From Plac Trzech Krzyzy, walk straight ahead along Ul Ujazdowskie. Poland's parliament stands on your left while the other side is mostly occupied by embassy residences.
After going past the charming Botanical gardens and the interesting Astronomical Observatory, you'll reach Lazienki's main entrance, a huge gateway guarded by the monumental historic statue of Frederick Chopin. During the summer season, Chopin piano concerts are held here daily at noon in memory of Poland's greatest and most beloved composer.
Enter the park and stroll along Lazienki's main promenade towards the Old Orangery, a medium-sized structure that houses an excellent exhibition of Polish sculptures. The promenade itself is adorned with a variety of rare trees, busts of Roman emperors and elegant fountains. Continue straight ahead along the King's Promenade until you reach the Palace upon the Water. Considered as the most prominent structure in the park, this beautiful palace is the work of architect Domenico Merlini. Renovated after the war, it houses numerous fine furnishings and a unique Greek-style bathroom decorated with a profusion of bas-reliefs. The Amphitheatre, also designed by Merlini on the edge of a lake is a perfect summer venue for plays and musical performances.
Lazienki is much more than this. It is Warsaw's most famous recreation spot. It is a place where Warsaw's rich cultural heritage has been perfectly blended with the city's most fascinating natural environment.
2. Wilanow, 6kms from the city centre is a park-palace complex designed by architect Augustyn Locci for King Jan III Sobieski in 1677. The original design was made to imitate a typical Italian village; hence, the name Wilanow, a corruption of the Italian words villa nova. The park can be reached from the city centre by Bus 116, Bus 130 or Bus 410 in less than 30 minutes. From the Wilanow stop, cross the main thoroughfare and go in the direction of the church. On your right, drawn backwards from the road, you'll find Wilanow's main gateway.
The highlight of the park is Wilanow's palace, a symmetric construction whose artistically decorated exterior hides a profusion of equally fascinating interior furnishings. The grand hall, the dining-room and the gallery are majestic displays of opulence and romanticism. Several grand portraits of Jan Sobieski adorn the walls of the building.
The amazing garden that surrounds the palace is actually a combination of three gardens in one. A Chinese-style romantic garden lies on the south edge of the park while an English-style garden occupies the space north of the palace. The most splendid is unquestionably the central Baroque Italian-style garden, a delightful environment of beautiful pathways that meander along perfectly trimmed shrubs and hedgerows.
An amazing profusion of monuments, garden pavilions and blooming shrubs make Wilanow a breathtaking place for everyone.
3. Picturesque, historically interesting and ideal for a stroll, Ogrod Saski is a small public park that offers a perfect combination of paved walkways, recreation spots and lush greenery. Located a stone's throw away from the Old Town and Krakowskie Przedmiescie, it is an English-style summer garden whose beauty is enhanced by old chestnut trees, stone fountains and rows of lifesize statues that stand proudly along the garden paths.
From Krakowskie Przedmiescie, take ul Krolewska that soon opens into Plac Pilsudskiego. Walk towards the west side of the square where you'll find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb itself is the remaining part of the arcades of Saxon Palace designed by Stanislaw Ostrowski in 1925 for King August II. Since the remains of an unknown soldier were interred in the tomb, the place became a national symbol of bravery and heroism. Foreign delegations come here to put wreaths and pay homage to the soldiers who died to defend their country. At noon every Sunday, the square becomes the venue for the formal ceremony of the changing of the guard.
Behind the tomb is the public garden, opened for the first time in 1727. The goblet-shaped fountain ringed with an array of blooming shrubs was designed by Henryk Marconi in 1850 and was one of the few monuments that survived the war. The main promenade behind the fountain is adorned with a collection of 21 Baroque lifesize statues, allegories of the Virtues, the Sciences and the Elements. On one side of the garden, a small lake surrounded by willows stands out amidst a conglomeration of chestnut trees. Perched above it, the picturesque classicist building you see is Vesta's temple. Right on the lakeside, a tiny cabin houses a cafe and pastry shop where you can relax over a cup of coffee amidst enchanting surroundings.
Ogrod Saski is a great place for a walk away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Lined with an abundance of stone benches that fill up its numerous walkways, it is also ideal for relaxation. By day, particularly in summer, it offers a calm environment characterized by quietness, seclusion and tranquillity. However, all this changes after sunset when the garden is taken over by drunks, drug addicts and hooligans. Don't come here after dark because the place becomes daringly dangerous and unsafe.